“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Coming into 2019, I have made the decision that I will take every opportunity out there to cultivate my personal growth, whether it be knowledge, values or aspirations. As one of my biggest events for 2019, I decided to start the year by participating in the Miss Vietnam of the Carolinas pageant (MVC). My perception of being in a pageant has changed so much over the course of several weeks of meeting fellow contestants and attending practice. It was more difficult than I thought, pageants to me were no longer just glitz and glamorous, but it was a big celebration of beauty. There were times when I questioned why I even started the journey, and during these times, I often reflected on my goals and intentions before joining. And I am going to share my 3 biggest motivations that kept me going.
My original goal for participating in this pageant was because I wanted to make more friends who have the same background as me. Moving from Vietnam in 2006, I’ve always felt like an outsider around my Vietnamese American friends. The phrase Vietnamese American was ambiguous to me because I’ve always thought that all Vietnamese are the same, we came from the same motherland, eat the same food, and share the same cultural values. But I was very far from the truth. Vietnamese migrating from Vietnam have a completely different mindset compared to Vietnamese born in the U.S. My family was strict, so I wasn’t allowed to go out and socialize (I’m very thankful for this upbringing), thus I wasn’t exposed to the American youth culture until much later on when I attend college. Because of this, I’ve always had a difficult time relating to American born Vietnamese. I had a few friends who were born in the States, but because our upbringing was so different, sometimes I felt like I was being too traditional in terms of my values. I saw the opportunity of closing the gap by participating and meeting more Vietnamese girls, who came from different backgrounds so I can get a better understanding of their upbringing for being born in the States. And ultimately, I wanted to become friends with the girls (They’re like my sisters now).
“A day of traveling will bring a basket full of learning.” ~ Vietnamese Proverbs
Secondly, I wanted an opportunity to embrace my heritage and culture values full on. After several years of being in college, I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty that Vietnamese traditions have to offer. I’m proud to be a Vietnamese, and I wanted to share this with everyone in my physical community and my online community. Aside from the beautiful ao dai (traditional Vietnamese dresses) that my friends and I will be wearing for the show, I think we are also showcasing the beauty of being a Vietnamese woman, which I think the Miss Vietnamese of the Carolinas summed up nicely through 3 words, “culture, confidence, beauty”. The beautiful ladies that I had the honor of meeting are beautiful inside and outside. We all came from different backgrounds, but the weeks’-long journey with them has shown me that we all have similar struggles. But because grit and perseverance are ingrained in our minds, like many came before us, we are always striving to become better versions of ourselves. With this understanding in mind, I had the privilege of watching these girls blossom into the queens they are meant to be.
Lastly, the pageant was an opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone. I’ve never been shy from being onstage since I enjoy performing in front of crowds and I also have a decent public speaking skill. However, being on stage to showcase beauty and character is something that I have never done before. I am not an introvert but I tend to get self-conscious when I am in front of a large crowd (My goodness, walking on stage in a long dress is harder than it looks). I look at the pageant as a place where I will have to showcase my entire self, from look to personality, so it is not just based on the look (I think that it is a well-rounded celebration of beauty).
As I am reflecting on my journey, I’m very thankful for everyone I have met. From fellow contestants, coordinators, and to our pageant moms, I’m so grateful for each and every single one of them. And to my girls, you are all queens in my heart.